In our first FOREXT Friday, we were happy to welcome Steven Meyen from Teagasc who talked about adapting extension activities in the context of COVID-19. We also heard from Ian Baker from SmallWoods, who shared about the changes their work faced as the pandemic hit. Nuala Ní Fhlatharta from Teagasc and Mark Prior from Forestry Commission facilitated the discussion. The full recording of the webinar is available here.
Nuala Ní Fhlatharta pointed out that COVID-19 has made extension services reconsider how they operate and how they can most effectively deliver their services. Many of the forest and land owners depend on accessing a range of support services, both on a one-to-one basis and in groups, to progress their plans for their forests and manage them appropriately. While the digital leap has brought innovation and new forms of services, we still need to be conscious that the profile of some of the clients may mean that they have limited capacity to upskill in relation to digital communications and we must avoid alienating them.
Steven Meyen and Ian Baker both emphasised that even with the current limitations, we can reach out and connect with a multitude of digital tools. Effective communication, along with developing new ideas, requires resources, skills and the flexibility to be able to respond rapidly to the changing demands of the clients as well as the tools.
For Teagasc and SmallWoods, the pandemic has increased the demand for their newsletters and visits on social media channels as well as on their websites. While webinars and online meetings have to an extent substituted in-person seminars, one-to-one consultations and site visits, not all services translate into online content. For example, many of the SmallWoods courses deal with crafts, which require tools that the participants would not have access to in their homes.
Despite being able to successfully take the digital leap, Meyen and Baker believe that the online tools will not entirely replace the live site visits or the in-person peer-to-peer learning, which are crucial part of the work extension services do.
The full recording of the webinar is available on Youtube:
Note the video has been timestamped so in case you are interested in a particular section, be sure to check the description field on YouTube.
More info about Teagasc Forestry Development Department https://www.teagasc.ie/forestry/ or on Twitter @teagascforestry
More info about SmallWoods: https://www.smallwoods.org.uk/ or on Twitter @lovesmallwoods